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Lawmakers Approve Changes To Concealed Weapons Law

LANSING (WWJ) - A State Senate committee on Thursday approved changes to Michigan's concealed weapons law that include allowing people to carry concealed guns in churches, schools and sports arenas.

The legislation now goes to a vote in the full Senate.

Under the new law citizens would be allowed to carry their weapons into churches, schools and sports arenas -- places they currently aren't allowed to be packing heat. The proposal would also eliminate the state's 83 county gun boards and transfer the power to issue CCW permits to local sheriff's departments.

"Basically it's a pretty huge rewrite of the concealed weapons permit law," said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick.

Under the amended law "highly trained" permit holders would be able to carry in the gun-free zones - which would require extra hours of training and more rounds fired at the range beyond the current basic requirements.

One state lawmaker on Thursday used a dramatic demonstration to point out what he calls the "absurdity" in Michigan's  current concealed weapons law.

State Senator Arlan Meekhoff pulled back his jacket in a Senate Committee hearing to reveal his holstered gun. He demonstrated how he could openly carry in schools and churches, but how it would be illegal if he covered the pistol with his coat.

Meekhoff said eliminating those gun free zones is not the goal.

"What we're trying to do is to have the most highly trained citizens who are CPL holders to ... give them the opportunity to defend themselves even in these areas, and carry concealed," Meekhoff said. "because not everybody's comfortable with seeing a weapon on somebody's belt or on their hip."

Meekhoff said he almost always carries his gun during Senate business, which is legal.

State Senator Mike Green, who is chief sponsor of the new legislation, was the original sponsor of the "shall issue" law in 2001, which created for the first time the ability to carry a concealed weapon in Michigan.

"When this first proposal came up for concealed weapons, Jennifer Granholm, a former prosecutor, said Michigan will turn into the wild, wild, West, that there would be people running around with concealed weapons, shooting one another. And it turns out she had to eat her words and Mike Green made her eat her words because it did not turn into the wild, wild, West," said Skubick.

Currently, there are more than 305,000 active CCW permits.

"Here's the point that Mr. Green makes, that this is a deterrent to crime. If you don't know if the person next to you on the bus or at the sports arena is carrying heat and there's a doubt about it, you're going to think twice about committing a crime or trying to accost them or whatever, that is the theory. But, the anti-gun crowd says if there's a gun in some place, eventually someone's going to use it and somebody's going to get hurt," said Skubick.

"This is a long debate over the second amendment that we will continue to have in our blessed country until we go under," he continued.

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